Showing posts with label War. Show all posts
Showing posts with label War. Show all posts

Apr 16, 2019

Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (2007)

Writing about experience necessarily sanitizes it, theorizes Sangjoon Han, a Korean-American soldier who fought in Iraq and is one of many articulate talking heads in Richard E. Robbins’s documentary Operation Homecoming. Built around the firsthand recollections of soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the film is a spinoff from an anthology of essays, e-mail messages, poems and letters compiled by the National Endowment for the Arts and published by Random House.

Mr. Han’s Aftermath, a fictional composite of several events, is one of the strongest and most sophisticated contributions. Written from the dual perspectives of a fleeing Iraqi farmer and an American soldier who shoots him after repeatedly shouting at him to stop, it reaches a tragically absurd conclusion in which the American treats the farmer whose vital organs were piled on top of him with an IV.

As you absorb the most graphic images of combat and how it changes people in these works written by soldiers but read by nine actors, sanitize is not a word that comes to mind. The best pieces portray combat as such a heightened sensory experience that it demands to be written about, and they suggest that war can turn ordinary men who wouldn't think of keeping diaries into latter-day Hemingways.

The World at War (1973)

The second World War had a profound effect on the course of the 20th century, and unfortunately, its horrors, including ethnic cleansing, terrorism, despotism, invasions, the curtailment of civil rights, and rampant nationalism, are still concerns of the modern day. The documentary series The World at War is outstanding in its ability to unfold the complex issues of WWII in a clear, objective, and gripping manner.

Each of the 26 episodes of this five-DVD set, narrated by Laurence Olivier, focuses on a particular, specific aspect of the war, starting at the beginning with Hitler's rise to power in Germany and progressing through the end of the war. Because of this focus, each episode examines its subject in detail, going beyond the names-and-dates style of history that I remember being subjected to in high school, to delve into the much more interesting and important issues of how and why.

I learned something new from every single episode, starting with the very first one. The episodes proceed overall on a regular timeline from the beginning to the end of the war, but since a great deal often happened over a short period of time, the series backtracks at several points to fill in what was happening in different places. For instance, after we are taken through the events from Hitler's rise to power in Germany in the late 1930s to the Battle of Britain and Hitler's attacks on Russia.

Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers (2006)

Join documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald (Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, Outfoxed) in assessing the damage done to average Americans when corporations decide to wage war. For critics of the current administration, the connection between the war in Iraq and the private corporations who profit from the fighting is plain to see..

For those who may not be so easily convinced, however, Greenwald and company not only explore the questionable motivations of the corporate decision-makers whose wartime profiteering has affected the lives of countless soldiers and their families, but also the increasingly negative international reputation of the United States as a result.

Apr 15, 2019

The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns (1990)

War may be hell, but it can make for great television, as Ken Burns proves in his masterful 11-hour PBS series chronicling the deadliest war in American military history. The Civil War was a landmark TV event that held record numbers of viewers riveted to their screens and reinvented the documentary form. Taking full advantage of the fact that the Civil War was the first war to be captured extensively on camera, Burns synthesizes evocative archival photographs (among them, Matthew Brady's emblematic images of Union soldiers) with diverse and illuminating narrative voices.

Well-known actors read diary entries, letters from the front, official dispatches, and speeches from the era. These voice-over readings convey the full range of human fears and hopes of those shaping and being shaped by the war, while an engaging group of historians (most notably Shelby Foote) provide historical perspective.

The result is a seamless collage that illuminates, with quiet nobility, this most painful chapter in our nation's past. It's been said that history belongs to the victors; like Homer before him, Burns demonstrates that a major chunk of it belongs to the best storytellers.

Apr 14, 2019

The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress (1944)

Movie Guide Unabashedly sentimental, this war film was produced by David Putnam in partnership with Catherine Wyler, whose father William Wyler directed an acclaimed documentary about the real-life events depicted in the film.

Experience the American Journey through our country's visual heritage in this historical recording provided by the National Archives of the United States.

Documentary: On the Memphis Belle: a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, and the first American bomber and crew to complete twenty-five missions over enemy territory in World War II. Highlights the mission to Wilhelmshaven: ground crew duties, flight crew briefing, and the elaborate plan of coordinated raids intended to fool the enemy. After the Memphis Belle returns, the Crew receives the Distinguished Flying Cross and are visited by many dignitaries, including the King and Queen of Great Britain. Views of B-17's in flight, being shot down, crews bailing out of burning bombers and air base activities.

From the Office of War Information.

This historical recording from the National Archives may contain variations in audio and video quality based on the limitations of the original source material.

The content summary for this documentary is adapted from an historical description provided by the government agency or donor at the time of production release.

Combat America (1943)

In 1943 actor Clark Gable served as a Major in World War II, operating out of England's Royal Air Force station Polebrook (RAF Polebrook) as a member of the 351st Bomb Group. Gable flew five missions during his term, and was tasked with producing Combat America as a recruitment tool. He worked in partnership with unit members First Lieutenant Andrew McIntire, a former director of cinematography for MGM, additional camera operators Master Sergeants Robert Boles and Merlin Toti, and Hollywood scriptwriter John Lee Mahin.

Together this team of seasoned industry professionals created an energetic and educational propaganda piece intended to motivate viewers to serve their country while doing the same themselves. Produced at a time when audience patriotism was at an all-time high, the film plays to the national desire to defend fellow man and country. Opening with footage of both civilians and servicemen looking to the sky in admiration of the fighter planes as they soar overhead, viewers are transported across seas for an inspirational look at the life of a bombardier.

Featuring a playfully animated narration by Gable, we are walked through the process of gearing up for flight, from checking ammunition to assessing uniforms and safety gear. Gable gives a coaching voiceover as the planes take off, advising them on how to maneuver, take flight, and avoid crashing in a fiery blaze.

Conversational moments with soldiers lend a personalized perspective to hum-drum aspects of serving, such as making small talk while cleaning their service weapons or chatting casually on the airfield. The action footage picks up when we join the bombardiers in the air, as they evaluate the enemy threat and plot their course of action. Gunners are shown on alert and ready at their turrets, acting promptly on the directive to fire. Culminating in a mass air-drop, the boys deliver their payloads and return to base.

An adventurous and invigorating documentary, Combat America will hold great appeal to historical buffs and World War II enthusiasts. The film serves as a time capsule back to a fight that has not gone forgotten, allowing an unaltered depiction of the servicemen and weaponry of the time.

Hearts and Minds (1974)

The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does the Westerner. Life is cheap in the Orient. Hearts and Minds is an Academy Award winning documentary about the Vietnam War directed by Peter Davis. The film's title is based on a quote from President Lyndon B. Johnson: "the ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there". The movie was chosen as Best Feature Documentary at the 47th Academy Awards presented in 1975.

The film premiered at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. Commercial distribution was delayed in the United States due to legal issues, including a temporary restraining order obtained by one of the interviewees, former National Security Advisor Walt Rostow who had claimed through his attorney that the film was "somewhat misleading" and "not representative" and that he had not been given the opportunity to approve the results of his interview.

After Columbia Pictures refused to distribute the picture, Bert Schneider and Henry Jaglom purchased back the rights and released the film in March 1975 through Warner Bros.

Dealers in Death (1934)

Filmed in 1935, “Dealers in Death” documentary film offers a contemporary view of the most
important makers of armaments in the world at that time. It uses a case-history format to
explore the activities of these companies, which is augments by newsreel footage that shows
preparation for war and a look at wars of the past. It also includes predictions about what future
wars could encompass, all through the lens of pre-World War II film making.

The arms makers examined in the Dealers in Death documentary feature companies such as
Vickers-Armstrong, Skoda, Krupp, Remington, and Colt. Newsreel footage is used as a
counterpoint to the investigation of deals made among the companies to prolong the fighting.
The reality of war and the devastation of the battlefields emphasize the sinister and cynical
nature of the munitions industry.

The film presents a pacifistic, anti-war viewpoint, with the filmmakers basically arguing that the
largest munitions companies in the world, chiefly companies in Europe, collaborate in their work
even when their nations are at war. More interested in making money that supporting their
respective national interests, the film suggests that the arms companies manipulate events to
extend the duration of any given war. The film focuses its efforts on examining the substantial
profits made by armament manufacturers during World War I and extrapolates as to what that
might mean for coming wars.

The documentary covers topics of special interest during the times of President Franklin D.
Roosevelt, who had requested legislation to remove profits from war.